• Bronycon Retrospective: Calpain

    There are few things in my life that I can say have left such an impact on me as this convention. Never before have I had so much fun and met so many great and interesting individuals than I did in just three short wondrous days.

    After the break, check out my own thoughts and feelings on why conventions can indeed be magic.

    Waking up Friday morning I admit I did not know exactly what to expect. While I did not feel as nervous as some of my fellow staff members had expressed (particularly PK and Cereal) I still had a anxious churning in my gut about not only visiting my first ever convention, but meeting so many people I had befriended online face to face for the first time.

    Would they like me? Would I like them? Would they be exactly as they were online or somewhat different? These thoughts raced through my mind as I made my 3 hour drive in the 90 degree heat to catch my short flight from Detroit to New York.

    The flight was uneventful and arrived early to La Guardia where I disembarked and immediately made a beeline to the small bar and grill that we had agreed to meet at. With each step my anxiety grew, expecting at any minute that I will soon see my friends that I have worked and laughed with on the internet for the good part of a year.

    Arriving, with luggage in hand, I ran into Cereal at a nearby table, introduced myself, and took a seat. While awkward at first we quickly got along and my nervousness disappeared as soon as I realized how similar he was to how he acted on the internet. As time passed the rest of our entourage gathered together consisting of Seth (who I literally bumped into while turning a corner to check if he was here), Cereal, a couple artist friends and myself.

    If you want to feel like a sardine, fly American!
    After leaving the airport, our great journey began in earnest as it would take us about 3 hours to travel about 15 miles to the convention center. First off, taking a cab from La Guardia was probably not our greatest idea as we went about 3 miles in an hour through Manhattan rush hour traffic before deciding to take the subway and eventually a train to Secaucus. Tired and aching from running everywhere we crashed in our hotel room, eager and a little nervous about tomorrow's events.
    Awaking bright and early, we made our way to the convention center so we could do some wandering among the vendors before our panel at 11am. First off, let me say how amazing it was to see so many pony fans all in one spot. As a person who has yet to meet one pony fan where I live, the experience was pretty overwhelming and certainly put a smile on my face as I saw people from all walks of life enjoying the same thing we all love.

    Making my way past the crowds, I ran into a lot of friends that I had only known online up to that point which made for quite an experience and served to pass the time quite quickly. Soon it was 11am and the others with myself in tow made our way to the tail hall for our panel.

    It was the first time I had ever done a panel and the first time I had spoken live in front of so many people. Our turnout was about 75-100 people which was about what we expected and since we didn't have much media besides the intro Cereal had put together for us we decided to just take questions from the audience. It was nice to see the enthusiasm of some of the questions despite them being a little hard to hear and I was greatly pleased by the whole event. A big thank you to everyone that came out to see our panel!

    With no time to rest, Cereal and I were whisked away to an interview with NPR for the show State of the Re:Union who were looking to do a show on internet culture. Finding a quiet hotel room, which incidentally was filled with pony merchandise, we talked about everything from the community, the history of the show, and what lay ahead as Cereal and I were ping ponged questions for about a half hour. Parting ways with Cereal, I then led our interviewer on a tour of the convention floor, discussing the variety of merchandise for sale amongst other things before we shook hands and said our good byes. Overall, the experience was very positive as our interviewer was highly enthusiastic and very kind during the whole thing and told us to expect our segment to appear in an episode a few months from now!

    The rest of the day was spent catching up with people and checking out the variety of merchandise available on the convention floor. Everything imaginable was for sale! Hats, customs, plushies, prints, buttons, stickers, the list just went on and on. Most importantly though was that everything seemed to be selling! Every vendor I spoke to that day mentioned brisk sales, and a close friend of mine who was scared of not selling out had already sold out by 3pm that day to his surprise. Pony was certainly in demand and con goers were not disappointing in their eagerness to drop some cash!

    Tired from our day of walking around, I had dinner with the team and our wonderful group of pre-readers before retiring to an end of day party. My first day had been fantastic and I could not have been happier at least until the next day dawned.
    Day two started again with us waking up bright eyed and bushy tailed (except PK, that kid can sleep through an explosion)! Rushing off to the convention, Seth and Cereal hoped to catch some panels while I was focused on meeting as many vendors as possible before Seth's interview for the documentary around noon.

    After a couple hours of chatting with folks and picking up gifts for friends the first major event of the day occurred. Standing by JJ's booth in hopes of getting some buttons for a friend of mine, I noticed the lights were blinking and knew at once that something was not right. Sure enough, a few seconds later, I hear staff telling us to evacuate the building as the smell of something burning filled the air. It wasn't until after I left the building that I found out about the fire from Seth and Cereal.

    An hour later once all the hubbub had died down and we were allowed back in, we proceeded to Seth's interview in the 'control center' of the convention. Packed in a tiny hallway, we waited until Seth was situated and then sat in on his interview which was a lot of fun to listen to! Afterwards, Seth, PK, and I walked around the convention hall for the documentary and then went back to the hotel to show the doc crew how we update EqD. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience and there was certainly evidence that parts of the doc crew were fans of the show as well (especially considering the camera man had a Rainbow Dash strapped to his camera).

    The rest of the day consisted of talking with people, shaking hands, and many hugs before the team retreated to Chili's for some supper. The most interesting moment of that whole affair had to be when All Star came up on the restaurant PA system and we all spontaneously broke into song. What a blast!

    With minutes to spare, we made it to the closing ceremony and man what a ceremony that was! The crowd, filled with energy, really made the ceremony an exciting experience and the speakers made sure to play off that excitement. But for me, the most exciting part of the entire ceremony was a tiny 5 minute stretch that made the day magical for me.

    There he was, John de Lancie, approaching the podium when all of sudden he receives a standing ovation lasting no less than 30 seconds. Suddenly, he makes a cut off motion with his hands and the entire audience goes silent and sits quietly! It was the most amazing sight I believe I had seen in quite a long time, but the amazement didn't end there for me. After a few lines, John exited the stage with the other VAs and the BronyCon staff began their speeches and I thought that was the last I would see of John. No less than a minute later though, a friend taps my shoulder and directs me to no more than a dozen feet behind me: John de Lancie.

    Psyched out, but composed, I made a staggered line to the man I had not gotten anywhere near the entire convention and finally managed to shake his hand and received his autograph, one of the last I got at the con. On cloud nine, I watched the rest of the closing ceremony with a smile, knowing for sure that this day certainly beat the last.

    The last few hours of the final day consisted of a small party with a member of the documentary staff and the watching of the new Friendship is Witchcraft which I had missed up to that point. Much merriment was had and we went to bed feeling our final day was fulfilling.
    The trip home the next day was uneventful and gave me time to mull over everything that had happened. We barely had any time to sit and think at the convention during the whirlwind of activity and it almost seemed alien to finally be able to relax again.

    All I can say, is that this convention was the most fun I had had in many, many years and I learned a lot in the mean time. I saw fans from all walks of life, all genders, and all ages at the convention: while getting cards at the Enterplay booth I ran into a young boy buying a box of cards, at our EqD panel I saw men in their late 30s or 40s, at a restaurant I met a lovely lady there with her 15 year old son, and while waiting for Chili's to seat us we bumped into a little girl who commented on a pony drawing a friend of mine was working on. Our fanbase is really incredibly diverse, more so than I could ever had imagined and furthermore are some of the nicest people I have ever met.

    Even though I did not take many pictures, I did manage to accrue a decent amount of loot to bring home for myself and my friends. A big thank you to everyone that gave me things when they didn't need to and a big thank you to those who sold me such wonderful merch. You all rock!

    A selection of my swag from the convention. A Woona lab coat from Egophiliac, prints from my good friends UC77, Acesential, Fetchbeer, and Atlur, buttons from JJ (thanks for the OC button man!), PixelKitties, and Garrett Gilchrist. Not to mention stickers from Rai and an awesome paper plushie Rainbow Dash and fireplace from C-Quel.
    Special thanks to AnimeApothecary for the steel etching! You rock man!

    Besides merchandise, I also brought home something of incredible importance to me... my lab coat. You see, over the course of the past six months, my friends here at EqD, on Skype, and you all in the community really helped me push through to the end when I was finishing my thesis. I literally put the finishing touches on the document the week before the convention and to celebrate the end of this part of my life and to symbolize how much the community means to me I brought the coat I used for the past two years to the convention in order to collect as many signatures as I could. You all did not disappoint... thank you.

    Thank you all for signing...

    ...you too Mr. de Lancie!

    To wrap this all up, it was pleasure to meet those of you out there that managed to come to the convention! You all showed me how much fun these events can be and have lit a fire under me to attend more.

    Till next time my friends! Keep on ponying!